April 9, 2024

Incorporating a property rental business


Over the last few years there have been multiple changes to the UK tax rules around the taxation of residential property (much to the anger of landlords) such as the restriction of a deduction for mortgage interest, which I would say has been a key driver for incorporations since 2017.

Moreover, the rising interest rates and public articles will push landlords to think long and hard about their current ownership and structure.

Many of those who operate 'buy-to-let' businesses in their personal capacity (as a sole trader or through a partnership) will have or will be considering whether it is more tax effective to incorporate their personally held businesses into a company structure.

I'm pretty sure someone knows someone who knows someone who has incorporated! The stats speak for themselves. In particular circumstances, there can be clear tax and commercial benefits.

This article looks at the headline tax issues relevant to incorporating a personally held property rental business.

Why incorporate?

The restriction on the deductibility of interest for individual buy-to-let landlords and the imposition of higher rates of capital gains tax on disposal of residential property (28%) which only apply to direct personal ownership (i.e. they do not apply to companies) make the option of owning residential investment properties through a company more attractive.

The advantages of operating through a company include:

  • Relief is available for all interest paid.
  • Corporation tax is currently at 19% on income and gains (subject to change).
  • Income can be accumulated in the company for distribution after retirement to avoid higher rates of tax.
  • If ownership is to be passed or shared between family members, share capital offers greater flexibility than real physical property. A company shareholding structure allows for effective inheritance tax planning, for example, transferring a suitable number of shares to a discretionary trust? #bespoke
  • The first £2,000 of dividend income for each recipient is taxable at 0%.

However, before you consider the tax rules in any detail you should first consider whether you need to be able to extract net profit from your property rental business on a frequent basis. You cannot forget that even though the rate of corporation tax is considerably lower, if you need to extract net profit from the business, where that business is operated through a company, you will encounter a second tax point on extracting those business profits. #doubletaxation #itiswhatitis

The expected way to remove profit from a company is to declare a dividend. The current rate of tax on a dividend payment received by an individual is 33.75% for higher rate taxpayers. This means that you can either pay a higher rate income tax bill of 40% to get the profits from the business direct into your hands, or you can pay corporation tax at 19% followed by dividend tax at 33.75% (a total tax cost of circa 50%) to get into the same position.

It is for this reason that the first tax planning consideration when deciding how to structure a property rental business is often:

Do I need to extract the net profit immediately to cover my living expenses or can I leave the profit in the company and grow the business?

Absent other practical considerations, we find that if a client needs to extract profit regularly to cover basic living costs, then they should be cautioned against using a company structure. In all my posts and articles tax related, I always include the caveat that there is hardly a one-size-fits-all solution.

Each individual, family or company would need to be assessed on a case by case basis with tax advice tailor made and bespoke.

Positively, if your property rental business is focused on preserving profit and funds for investment into further property, then on first principles, an incorporated property rental business may be a good option, subject to the following disadvantages being considered alongside the advantages listed above:

  • Any private use of the property will give rise to a benefit-in-kind charge for the director/shareholder.
  • All capital growth will occur within the company, resulting in a double charge to tax on gains when the property is sold and the company dissolved. Planning can be undertaken to avoid this.
  • There is a higher compliance burden in terms of filing accounts and annual returns.
  • There is no annual exemption on realised capital gains (whereas individuals benefit from a £12,500 per tax year exempt amount for capital gains purposes)
  • If the business comprises several rental properties and one is sold, the proceeds can only be extracted by way of income distribution.
  • No relief will be available to the new company (following incorporation) for any losses brought forward by the individual from earlier years.

Broadly speaking, in the current climate, incorporating a decent sized portfolio would probably be the way forward.

This is a complex area and all aspects must be managed and navigated well. Initially, capital gains tax and stamp duty land tax must be assessed and we can advise on potentially eliminating these tax burdens.

Then, as a second step, we would always look towards the inheritance tax planning that must be undertaken. Many advisors leave this bit out even though the tax burden is a massive 40%.

This is due to the short sightedness in correctly sorting out an immediate tax issue but not looking forward into the medium and long-term.

To conclude

Before undertaking any sort of incorporation it is important to ensure that you have full visibility of all the tax triggers and issues. Equally so, it is important to understand the non-tax issues, such as those with bank financing and additional ongoing administrative costs and regulations that accompany running a business through a separate legal entity. These are all issues which we can advise you further on.

I hope you have found this article useful and as always, please reach out if you have any queries or would like to discuss specific requirements.


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